Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wesleys used bar tunes?

A music adviser for the United Methodist Church has set out to puncture the "myth" that John and Charles Wesley, the brothers regarded as the fathers of Methodism, based several of the most beloved hymns of Christendom on 18th-century tavern songs.

"There is a widespread misconception, and I heard it at conferences everywhere this summer, that the Wesleys used drinking songs," says Dean McIntyre, a music officer with the denomination's Board of Discipleship. "That is a myth. It just is not true." John and Charles Wesley, Anglican vicars whose preaching led to the founding of the Methodist Church in the late 1700s in England, wrote some of the most enduring hymns of the church, sung in churches of all Christian denominations. McIntyre, in a telephone interview from Nashville, says many Methodists today, inspired by the Wesleys' evangelism aimed at the common man, want to believe they sanctified boisterous and drunken tavern songs with new lyrics to save souls.

"Many have cherished the idea that the Wesleys were so evangelistic that they engaged in this practice," he says. He first wrote on the topic last year and sent out another memo to church music experts this month as the myth persisted.

"This idea is that tavern songs can be used to justify using popular music today as a way to reach people, which I have no problem with," McIntyre says. "But the tavern argument is a myth."

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Even life itself must be secondary!

"China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women … The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, [and] souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary."

I am reading "Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret" this week. What a man. Here is a great Christian History piece on him.

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Atheist decides Africa needs God!

Atheist decides, disbelief or not, Africa needs God.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Five reasons Muslims convert

Some good info here.

A survey of 750 Muslims who converted to Christianity shows five predominant reasons they chose to follow Christ.

  1. The lifestyle of Christians. Former Muslims cited the love that Christians exhibited in their relationships with non-Christians and their treatment of women as equals.

  2. The power of God in answered prayers and healing. Experiences of God's supernatural work—especially important to folk Muslims who have a characteristic concern for power and blessings—increased after their conversions, according to the survey. Often dreams about Jesus were reported.

  3. Dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the Qur'an, emphasizing God's punishment over his love. Others cited Islamic militancy and the failure of Islamic law to transform society.

  4. The spiritual truth in the Bible. Muslims are generally taught that the Torah, Psalms, and the Gospels are from God, but that they became corrupted. These Christian converts said, however, that the truth of God found in Scripture became compelling for them and key to their understanding of God's character.

  5. Biblical teachings about the love of God. In the Qur'an, God's love is conditional, but God's love for all people was especially eye-opening for Muslims. These converts were moved by the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The next step for many Muslims was to become part of a fellowship of loving Christians.

The respondents were from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups. The survey was prepared at Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies, and reported in Christianity Today.

Muslims are now 21 percent of the world population, increasing from 12 percent in the past 100 years. And the growth rate of Islam is higher than that of Christianity (1.81% per year, compared to 1.23%). Christians still outnumber Muslims, with one-third of the world population naming Christianity as their faith.

In some parts of the world, significant pockets of Muslims are turning to Christ, including North Africa, South Asia, and Indonesia.

—info from J. Dudley Woodbury, Russell G. Shubin, and G. Marks at

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bifurcation can be such an unholy word

"It is not a matter of engaging in both the gospel and social action, as if Christian social action was something separate from the gospel itself. The gospel has to be demonstrated in word and deed. Biblically, the gospel includes the totality of all that is good news from God for all that is bad news in human life—in every sphere. So like Jesus, authentic Christian mission has included good news for the poor, compassion for the sick and suffering justice for the oppressed, liberation for the enslaved. The gospel of the Servant of God in the power of the Spirit of God addresses every area of human need and every area that has been broken and twisted by sin and evil. And the heart of the gospel, in all of these areas, is the cross of Christ." - Christopher J. H. Wright International director of John Stott Ministries (from Knowing the Holy Spirit Throught the Old Testament)

This, actually reminds me of the E. Stanley Jones quote: Evangelism without social action is like a body without a soul. Social action without evangelism is like a soul without a body. One is a corpse, the other is a ghost. We don't want either one.

So - why do we so often settle for ghosts and corpses in our ministrues?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Last song on the lips of John Wesley

This hymn by Isaac Watts (1714) was on Wesley's lips when he died:

I'll praise my Maker while I've breath,
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers;
my days of praise shall ne'er be past,
while life, and thought, and being last,
or immortality endures.

Why should I make a man my trust?
Princes must die and turn to dust;
vain is the help of flesh and blood:
their breath departs, their pomp, and power,
and thoughts, all vanish in an hour,
nor can they make their promise good.

Happy the man whose hopes rely
on Israel's God: he made the sky,
and earth, and seas, with all their train;
his truth for ever stands secure,
he saves th'oppressed, he feeds the poor,
and none shall find his promise vain.

The Lord has eyes to give the blind;
the Lord supports the sinking mind;
he sends the laboring conscience peace;
he helps the stranger in distress,
the widow, and the fatherless,
and grants the prisoner sweet release.

He loves his saints, he knows them well,
but turns the wicked down to hell;
thy God, O Zion! ever reigns:
Let every tongue, let every age,
in this exalted work engage;
praise him in everlasting strains.

I'll praise him while he lends me breath,
and when my voice is lost in death,
praise shall employ my nobler powers;
my days of praise shall ne'er be past,
while life, and thought, and being last,
or immortality endures.

Notice the compassionate themes (the poor, the wicked, the fatherless) and also notice that at the end of the day, an evangelist's final message is that of praise.


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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Questions to ask to stay spiritually sharp

In the middle of the twentieth century the Christian Business Men's Committee urged each other to confront themselves with these questions daily:

1. Does my life please God?
2. Do I enjoy being a Christian?
3. Do I cherish in my heart a feeling of dislike or hatred for anyone?
4. Am I studying my Bible daily?
5. How much time do I spend in secret prayer?
6. How long has it been since I led a soul to Christ?
7. How long since I had a direct answer to prayer?
8. Do I estimate the things of time and eternity at their true value?
9. Am I praying and working for anyone's salvation?
10. Is there anything I cannot give up for Christ?
11. How does my life look to those who are not Christians?
12. Where am I making my greatest mistake?
13. Do I place anything before my Christian duties?
14. Am I honest with the Lord's money?
15. Have I neglected any known duty?
16. Is the world better or worse for my living in it?
17. Am I doing anything that I would condemn in others?
18. Do I hav e a clear conception of my place in the Lord's work?
19. What am I doing to hasten the coming of Christ?
20. Am I doing as Christ would do in my place?

(David R. Enlow, Men Aflame: The Story of CBMC (Zondervan).

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Performing Orthodoxy

Action-provoking article from CT.

The reason Christians need to read The Hermeneutics of Doctrine is because of Thiselton's argument that, properly understood, doctrine involves the disposition of belief, which always includes formation and leads on to transformation. Each doctrine he examines, whether he says so with clarity or not, maps how these three terms are at work. In so doing, Thiselton reminds us that any piece of theology that does not lead to worship, absorption of God's work on the cross of Christ, and sanctity in life in community, is not genuine theology.

What does it mean to "believe" a doctrine as true? Belief, as Thiselton has learned from H. H. Price, is an utterance that is "inextricably embodied in patterns of habit, commitment, and action, which constitute endorsement, 'backing,' or 'surroundings' for the utterance." To "believe" is to take a stand in the face of opposition. He quotes Price: "If circumstances were to arise in which it made a practical difference whether p was true or false, he [the believer] would act as if it were true." To believe is "performatory" in character. Thiselton puts it like this: "Belief, then, is action-orientated, situation-related, and embodied in the particularities and contingencies of everyday living." He adds one more component, which, if he's right, shapes everything he says and everything we believe: belief in a doctrine involves "communal commitment and communal formation."

Or, as an old professor of mine named Robert Traina would say: You do what you believe, and you believe what you do.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Spiritual warfare and the mission field

Just attended a forum today where eight current and former missionaries were asked, among other things, about spiritual warfare. This is what they said:

1. Spiritual warfare starts with your own spiritual life. If it is vital, you will be impactful. If it is not, watch out.

2. The weapons of spiritual warfare are daily prayer and Bible study ("which allows you to continue in the fight and keep your joy"), fasting is integral, sabbath-keeping and local church involvement (participation and accountability and community-friendships).

3. Much of the world thinks more holistically than Americans. Address the spiritual problem head-on ("or they will go to a witch doctor or whatever to get those needs met) but don't neglect that the spiritual, physical, intellectual run together for many peoples of the world.

4. Many cultures are very "spiritual." Pay attention to the people you've been sent to so they can teach you about spiritual warfare.

5. Don't get over-focused on evil. To do so gets you into all kinds of strange thinking and doctrine. We are a faith of love (God and neighbor).

6. Pull on the same end of the ministry rope as your family...not against them. Keep your family spiritually and emotionally happy. Take time for your marriage.

7. People may try to put you on a pedestal. Don't let them.


Friday, February 22, 2008

When Muslims convert...

From 1991 to 2007, Fuller Theological Seminary's School of Intercultural Studies conducted a survey among 750 Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Those surveyed represented 50 ethnic groups from 30 different countries. Here were the nine most-cited reasons for conversion to the Christian faith:

1. Christians practiced what they preached.

2. Christians appeared to have loving marriages in which women were treated as equals.

3. Christian-to-Christian violence was less prominent than Muslim-to-Muslim violence.

4. The prayers of Christians had healed the disabled and delivered others from demonic powers.

5. The Koran had produced profound disillusionment because it accentuates "God's punishment more than his love, and the use of violence to impose Islamic laws."

6. God had used visions and dreams to influence the converts' decision.

7. Muslims can never be certain of their forgiveness and salvation as Christians can.

8. As they read the Bible, the converts had been convicted of its truth.

9. The converts were attracted to the idea of God's unconditional love.

Jennifer Riley, "Analysis: Why Muslims Follow Jesus," The Christian Post (11-16-07)

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Good advice from Fulton Sheen?

Richard John Neuhaus in First Things seems to think so:
A priest on Long Island tells me that, when he was newly ordained, he had the chance to visit with the legendary Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who was famed for, among other things, winning many converts to the Catholic Church. Sheen was in the hospital and, as it turned out, on his deathbed. “Archbishop Sheen,” my friend said, “I have come for your counsel. I want to be a convert-making priest like you. I’ve already won fifteen people to the faith. What is your advice?” Sheen painfully pushed himself up on his elbows from his reclining position and looked my friend in the eye. “The first thing to do,” he said, “is to stop counting.”

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Preaching that melts...

From George Whitefield's Journal:
Tuesday, November 27, 1739 - ...I preached from a balcony to above six thousand people. God strengthened me to speak nearly two hours, with such demonstration of the Spirit, that great numbers continued weeping for a considerable time.

Tuesday, April 30, 1740 - Towards the conclusion of my discourse, God's Spirit came upon the preacher and people, so that they were melted down exceedingly.

May 14, 1749 - I believe there were near twelve thousand. I had not spoken long before I perceived numbers melting. As I proceeded, the influence increased, till, at last, thousands cried out, so that they almost drowned my voice...What tears were shed and poured forth after the Lord Jesus...After the last discourse, I was so pierced, as it were, and overpowered with the sense of God's love, that some thought...I was about to give up the ghost. How sweetly did I lie at the feet of Jesus. With what power did a sense of His all-constraining, free, and everlasting love flow in upon my soul! It almost took away my life.
What kind of preaching melts hearts today?

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why we don't make disciples

1. Our world view is all wrong. "Be holy as I am holy" is not a core conviction.

2. We prefer the things that are "more exciting" - like worship, harvesting tithes, building buildings, getting on the latest trendy movement of evangelicalism.

3. Not intentional enough. We think Sunday school or the regular programming dynamic of the local church will do the trick to transform lives.

4. We read the gospels for many reasons but not to find the methodology of Jesus for changing the world.

5. Hard to brag about discipleship in the statistics manual of district conference.

6. It is hard work.

7. We were not discipled therefore we don't have a clue what is meant by discipleship or how to do it.

8. American society is a time stealer, and discipleship, alas, takes time.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A third group of growing churches...

This from GROW magazine, a publication of the Nazarenes:
For many years, our Research Center has known that new churches and large churches grow faster than the res of the denomination. But recently, a third group of growing Churches of the Nazarene was discovered.

Three groups...routinely exceed the average denominational growth rate in the U.S. Churches organized less than ten years (or not yet organized), churches reporting at least 500 in worship the previous year, and those churches reporting no more than 50 in worship the previous year....In seventeen of the past twenty years these smaall churches have grown faster than the denominational average. As recently as 2000, their growth rate was higher than that of our largest churches.

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"It took 18 centuries for dedicated believers to grow from 0% of the world's population to 2.5% in 1900, only 70 years to grow from 2.5% to 5% in 1970, and just the last 30 years to grow from 5% to 11.2% of the world population. Now for the first time in history there is one believer for every nine people worldwide who aren't believers...we're talking about Bible-reading, Bible-believing stream of Christianity." (Ralph D. Winter and Bruce A. Koch/Perspectives)

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Disparity of the gospel (World Christian Encyclopedia)

Cost per baptism:

Africa 13,888
Antartica 1,677,852
Asia 61,071
Europe 933,371
Latin America 144,910
Northern America 1,518,991
Oceania 634,479

Full-time Christian workers per million

Africa 1,018.3
Antartica 6,666.7
Asia 185.0
Europe 2,482.6
Latin America 890.7
Northern America 5,399.2
Oceania 3,285.1

A good bit to analyze here. But, for starters - seeing how ripe the mission field in Africa is should we not be spending more laborers to that harvest? North America has more than its fair share of workers with precious little receptivity to the gospel to show for it.

Other points to be made?


Monday, January 21, 2008


The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. --C. S. Lewis


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Understanding Mike Huckabee using Explo '72

Hmm. Had a sister who was there. I bet all this really sounds strange to Inside the Beltway Supply Side Conservatives. My favorite paragraphs with a great big, "Go Zachary!"

Looking back, it is hard to appreciate just how revolutionary these steps were for evangelicals in 1972. Crusade's Mr. Bright, one of the most influential evangelicals of the post-World War II generation, had long rejected rock music -- along with long hair and dancing. Less than a year before Explo, he told a reporter that rock 'n' roll "wasn't for us . . . because of the complaints of ex-addicts." At the time, conservative evangelicals strongly associated rock music with drug abuse. Mr. Bright's son Zachary remembers telling his father: "You can have a conservative view of music and keep what worked for you, or you can win [young people to Christ]." "I'd rather win," Campus Crusade's president responded.

The organization's embrace of rock music at Explo '72 went a long way toward revolutionizing evangelicalism's relationship with popular culture. Only a few fundamentalists seriously swim against the cultural tide today. Explo may not have changed the world, but it changed American evangelicalism.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Church shifting...

Church shift?

If your church ain't doing this...then get shifting....

"We need to change the way church is done in this country. We need to shift -- and it's a complete shift from the way church is done now," he explains. "We don't just sit behind the walls outside and condemn the people in the mainstream and say, well this country is bad and this country is going down."

The Ukrainian pastor encourages church members to get out of their pews and out of the building in order to "engage the culture and try to win back the values that have made America great."

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

State of the Church

The Condition of the Church in America
Complied by Andy McAdams

1. 1,400 pastors in America leave the ministry monthly.

2. Less then 20% of churches recognize or appreciated their pastor in some way annually.

3. Only 15% of churches in the United States are growing and just 2.2% of those are growing by conversion growth.

4. 10,000 churches in America disappeared in a five-year period.

5. Only 45% of the U.S. population, attend church regularly.

6. The number of people in America that Do Not attend church has doubled in the past 15 years.

7. No more then 38% of the population attends church at all and that’s in the Bible belt. The next highest is the Midwest at 25%, West 21% and the Northeast 17%.

8. Though the Bible Belt still boasts the highest percentage of church attendees, yet many of those churches are filled with legalism or extreme liberalism.

9. The vast majority of churches have an attendance of less then 75.

10. In 70 % of the churches in America, the pastor is the only full-time staff person

11. There are almost 100 million unchurched Americans, 11-20% of them claim to be born-again. They have either left the church or never connected for some reason.

12. The median adult attendance per church service in 1999 was 90 people, which is slightly below the 1998 average of 95 adult attendees and in 1997 it was 102. There seems to be a slight gradual decline.

13. Only 1/5 of the adult population attends Sunday school or some sort of Christian training.

14. 23% of church attendees say they attend a small group for growth and accountability.

15. Only 65% of Americans donate to a place of worship. Evangelicals however 85% donate to their church yet only 9% tithe.

16. 20-25% read their Bible consistently, 59% attend church weekly, 16% listen to Christian radio, 7% watch Christian TV, and 11% are held accountable to someone.

17. Only 60% of Christians say they are deeply committed to their faith, yet 85% of evangelicals make this claim.

18. Among the 71% of those who have heard of spiritual gifts, 31% can name a spiritual gift they believe they possess.

19. One in four have a place in the church where they serve.

20. Less then 50% say that the Bible is totally accurate, yet 60% of those that clam to be born-again.

21. Just 1/3 of church attendees believes that they have a personal responsibility to share their faith with others.

22. 56% of the population believe that salvation can be earned and shockingly, 26% are among evangelical churches.

23. Giving to charities increased in the past decade yet giving to local churches is declining.

24. Out of 100,000 churches in America less then 2% are considered mega-churches, (1,000 or more).

25. In his book, "Who Shall Lead Them", Larry Withham said,
"20% Of US Churches Have No Future"

26. 1 out of 4 church attendees are considered church hoppers.

27. On average, just 7% of new church attendees are formally unchurched.

FOR DISCUSSION: What do you think? What stood out to you?

Andy McAdams is the director of Pastor to Pastors Ministry, a division of Church Dynamics International.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Beijing Olympics bans Bible

Here. And I still think the US should boycott the whole thing.


Friday, October 26, 2007

D'Souza - "What so great about Christianity?"



Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Coulter's remarks could have used some "perfecting"

"Coulter's remarks are outrageous, offensive and a throwback to the centuries-old teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism," the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently huffed in response to Ann Coulter. The commentator's remarks to an interviewer that Jews needed to be "perfected" by Jesus didn't set well, even if delivered with a winsome smile.

The ADL apparently doesn't have a clue about Christianity. So, let's review. Jews -- inspired by God -- wrote and revere the Old Testament, same as Christians. Jews daily read and meditate on that Testament, as do serious Christians.

And Jesus was a Jew.

Jesus was a Jew, however, who was a bit exclusive in His teaching -- "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Christians believe Him. Other Jews of His time believed him, not the least a gentlemen we would come to know as Paul of Tarsus. The early Christian faith was mostly a Jewish movement. Today, Israel has no better friends than the evangelical Christians of America.

Here is where Ann could have turned it on the interviewer named Donny Deutsch. "Donny," she might have articulated, "if this upsets you then you must turn your anger to Jesus. He said the 'I am the Way ... " things. Not me. I am just one of hundreds of millions alive today who have believed Him."

"Donny, do you have a problem with Jesus? Your listening audience would like to know. As C.S. Lewis once said, you cannot call him a great teacher if he was calling himself God and you think he was a liar. He was either a madman, a false prophet, or God. Which?

"And Donny, if you are mad and want to keep taking the 'how hateful, how anti-Semitic' line, then know this -- we will just have to love you until you change your mind. Yes, Donny, know that right now thousands of evangelical Christians watching this program are going to begin loving you through prayer to Jesus until you relinquish your life to Him who loves you more, Donny, than you could ever love yourself.

"You see, friend, we don't believe in hateful anti-Semitism. We believe in a Jesus that has taught us to love."

In the herky-jerky world of interview-entertainment on "serious" talk television, it is hard to believe that Ann could have ever had the uninterrupted time to deliver such thoughts. Still, it would have been a good reminder to all of us that yes, Jews need "perfecting," just like all men and women, boys and girls of all ethnic and religious stripes need the same. Jesus quoted twice from the Jewish Torah to let us all know how:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

And then Jesus said, "Follow Me."


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

History of religion in...90 seconds!

Oh, my.

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Confused about masculinity?

I have been in on a few discussions just recently about what a “real man” is. I have jokingly offered that here in the Deep South I am nowhere near what seems to be the standard composite.

A real man in these parts works darned hard, hunts, fishes, cuts his own wood for burning, fixes his own car, roots for the football team with the appropriate local pedigree. And it is not just a “South” thing - variations on this theme can be found, of course, across the country and the world.

University of Texas psychologist Andrew Rochen was recently quoted in TIME magazine. “Masculinity has traditionally been associated,” he says, “with work and work-related success, with competition, power, prestige, dominance over women, restrictive emotionality. . . But a good parent needs to be expressive, patient, emotional, not money oriented. Basically, masculinity is bad for you.”

Ouch. A real man is bad for the family? Perhaps real manhood should take a second look at its self understanding. At the least maybe this southern psychologist needs to rethink masculinity.

Jesus was the Real Man. Theologically, we say that he was 100 percent man. Indeed, the only 100 percent man to ever lived, unmarred by sin and indiscretion. If a definition of “manhood” is available to the world, it ought to be found in this Person.

And so – this Man had a vital, loving and moment-by-moment relationship with His Father. He invested in other men, training them to change the world. He related well to women and children. He spoke up with a gentle tongue that could also roundly curse wrongdoing when found. He was smart. He was, at various moments, loving, harsh, welcoming. He touched and healed and gave, called men to repentance and had an eye for those that society had shoved to the periphery. He cried. He died so that others could live.

Luther had a Latin phrase he felt described the state of unredeemed man: Cor incurvatus ad se (a heart curved in on itself). Instead of a heart that arched its loving way toward God and outward towards humankind in all their frailty and lostness the godless spend their love on…themselves. Think of Jesus’ message this way - it is not the enormity of his teaching we remember, but the simplicity of it all. Challenged to name the most important of hundreds of Mosaic laws he chose two – Love God, and love your neighbor, Deuteronomy and Leviticus respectively.

Some are most captivated by His miracles. Yes, they were, and are, incredible. But the miracles, according to the late missionary E. Stanley Jones, don’t carry Him. The miracles of His personhood carries the miracles. Truly – it would have been shocking if that miraculous life hadn’t performed miracles. But is He that carries the virgin birth, the healing of the lepers, the resurrection. Not the other way around. And the greatest miracle perhaps of all for us is that He wants with that miracle life to dwell in us.

What is a real man? The “realest” of all men said, “Follow me.” Those who do, fulfill their destiny. Those who don’t but have bagged the limit of deer this fall or managed to fix that carburetor or rooted for the Super Bowl winners …they have some learning yet to do…some commands still to follow…some potential yet untapped.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Faith-based is what's workin'!

Go, Colson!


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Guidelines for churches/pastors politically

A lot of leeway for pastors. Good.

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Perspectives on various faiths

From the Pastor's Weekly Briefing (H.B. London)

Most Americans will say they know little or nothing about the practices of Islam and Mormonism even though they both have gained increasing national visibility in recent years.

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center reveals the ways that Americans view these faiths and their followers. Forty-one percent say they know a great deal about the Muslim religion with 58 percent saying they do not know very much or next to nothing. Forty-nine percent say they know a great deal about Mormonism with 51 percent saying they don't know very much about this religion.

The following percentages show how the 3,002 adults polled viewed different religious groups:

  • Jews: 76 percent favorable; nine percent unfavorable; with 15 percent having no opinion.
  • Catholics: 76 percent favorable; 14 percent unfavorable; with 10 percent having no opinion.
  • Evangelical Christians: 60 percent favorable; 19 percent unfavorable; with 21 percent having no opinion.
  • Mormons: 53 percent favorable; 27 percent unfavorable; with 20 percent having no opinion.
  • Muslim Americans: 53 percent favorable; 29 percent unfavorable; with 18 percent having no opinion.
  • Muslims: 43 percent favorable; 35 percent unfavorable; with 22 percent having no opinion.
  • Atheists: 35 percent favorable; 53 percent unfavorable; with 12 percent having no opinion.

Most Americans believe that their own religion has little in common with either Islam or Mormonism. Sixty-two percent say the Mormon religion is very different from their own, while 70 percent say Islam is very different.

The most frequently used negative word to describe Islam was "fanatic," with "radical" and "terror" often mentioned. The most positive word was "devout." For Mormonism, the most commonly used negative word used to describe it was "polygamy," even though they banned polygamy almost a century ago. The most positive word was "family."

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

The "religious" are more happy

How do religious Americans compare to the secular when it comes to happiness? In 2004, the General Social Survey asked a sample of Americans, "Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" Religious people were more than twice as likely as the secular to say they were "very happy" (43% to 21%). Meanwhile, secular people were nearly three times as likely as the religious to say they were not too happy (21% to 8%). In the same survey, religious people were more than a third more likely than the secular to say they were optimistic about the future (34% to 24%).


Friday, September 28, 2007

The benefits of religion

Medved is a Jew, but argues a couple of simple points even the skeptic would have to agree with...if he was actually trying to be fair.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pastors and porn

This is bad. And why?
According to many Christian groups, pornography is a disturbing and increasing problem. A Promise Keepers survey found that 53 percent of its members consume pornography. A 2000 Christianity Today survey found that 37 percent of pastors said pornography is a "current struggle" of theirs. Fifty-seven percent called pornography the most sexually damaging issue for their congregations. A Barna Research Group study released in February 2007 said that 35 percent of men and 17 percent of women reported having used pornography in the past month.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Christianity losing reputation with younger generation

New from Barna:

As the nation’s culture changes in diverse ways, one of the most significant shifts is the declining reputation of Christianity, especially among young Americans. A new study by The Barna Group conducted among 16- to 29-year-olds shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago.

The study of Christianity’s slipping image is explored in a new book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, the president of The Barna Group. The study is a result of collaboration between Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project.

Rising Reactions

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity.

One of the groups hit hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture. However, those negative views are crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. The new study shows that only 3% of 16 - to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals. This means that today’s young non-Christians are eight times less likely to experience positive associations toward evangelicals than were non-Christians of the Boomer generation (25%).

The research shows that many Christians are innately aware of this shift in people’s perceptions of Christianity: 91% of the nation’s evangelicals believe that "Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity." Among senior pastors, half contend that "ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity."


Ideas to impact your public schools this year

Good stuff.


Six worldviews you are competing against

The folks in the pew come with assumptions. Best to know what they are. From Rick Warren.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Some interesting resources

Speaking of Faith
Among religion journalists, Krista Tippett is the equivalent of Terry Gross on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Tippett, a graduate of Yale Divinity School, skews leftward and defines faith so broadly that she’ll discuss the history of disbelief, but she also asks outstanding questions.

The Religion Report
Stephen Crittenden of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. welcomes many American guests. His interviews with Archbishop Peter Jensen of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney are illuminating. A recent show featured an interview with a theologian from the Catholic University of America who gave historical perspective on the Vatican’s rethinking of limbo. Crittenden makes it cool to be a religion geek.

Saturdays With Mark and Tony
The playful comedian and singer Mark Lowry is Tony Campolo’s best dialogue partner since theologian Steve Brown of the cable TV show Hashing It Out. Campolo is at his best when he has someone to keep him on his toes. If Steve Taylor was once the court jester of evangelicalism, as Newsweek called him, Lowry is its effusive Southern fabulist.

The Kindlings Muse
Dick Staub mixes relaxed interviews with occasional efforts at Inklings-style discussions. His one-on-one interviews work better than the roundtable discussions, in which Christians strive mightily to challenge the main guest, who is usually a scholar or admirer of C. S. Lewis.

Holy Trinity Brompton
For veterans of the Alpha Course who can’t get enough of HTB’s vicar, Nicky Gumbel, this weekly sermon is a fine pacifier. It’s not a one-man show, so listeners hear a wide variety of clergy and lay voices from one of the most important congregations in the Anglican Communion.

(This originally appeared on p.103 of the September 2007 issue of Christianity Today)


Living biblically?

So, a guy writes a volume titled The Year of Living Biblically, in which he attempts to follow all the rules of the Bible, from the famous (e.g., love thy neighbor) to the strangely ignored (e.g., don't wear clothes of mixed fibers).

It was a surprising and perspective-changing year. I was taken aback by how relevant many of the Bible's rules are to modern life. The laws about lying, gossiping, and coveting come to mind, since I live in New York. I was also surprised at how much practical information the Bible contains. I expected the wisdom and spirituality; I didn't expect the helpful household hints. So I've decided to take a few questions.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Calvinistic response to compassionate ministry

Good article:

Far from being hindered by theology, the ministry of mercy is furthered by theology, properly understood. Consider the story of Calvin’s Geneva. Prior to the Reformation, the city was infamous for its immorality. Among its common vices were drunkenness, disorderly conduct, gambling, and prostitution. On occasion Genevans had been known to run naked through the streets singing vulgar songs. Unfair business practices were common.

When the Reformation came to Geneva, the city’s Council of Two Hundred passed civic ordinances that were designed to promote the Protestant religion and restrain public indecency. Yet the Council quickly discovered that laws alone made little difference; what was needed was a change of heart. There would be no social transformation without biblical proclamation.

So the Council decided to do something that no city council would even think of doing today: they hired a theologian, John Calvin. The way Calvin reformed Geneva was simply by preaching the Bible, teaching the great doctrines of the Christian faith. Calvin preached verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book. He preached five, six, seven times a week. And he preached what people eventually called Calvinism: the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners.

The result was not just that people came to Christ and grew in grace, but that the whole urban environment was transformed by the practical application of gospel mercy. Taverns were closed, reducing alcoholism. Sewers were cleaned, eliminating illness. The refugees that were streaming to Geneva from all over Europe were offered Christian hospitality. Deacons were organized to care for the poor. A job program was developed in the clothing industry. Schools were opened, not just for boys, but also for girls. One visitor said that under the teaching of sound doctrine, with its faithful application in practical mercy, the city of Geneva had become “the wonderful miracle of the whole world.”

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Heroes - who will they be?

How about opening up this question to the listeners:

The passing away of Rev. Falwell, Rev. Adrian Rogers and, most recently, Rev. D. James Kennedy has left a hole in our defenses. Both men have been instrumental in helping to stem the tide of secular humanism from flowing over into the church. Who will be the next person to stand up and take their place on the front lines?

I've thought a lot about this. Many of our "heroes" of the faith are now much older and may soon see the Lord. Even spiritual icons like Billy Graham have approached their twilight years and cannot engage the enemy as staunchly as before.

This, I believe, is a good time to revive your call to arms for people to get in the fight. Not just politically, but on the front lines, with their neighbors and friends and families. Who knows? Maybe the next Dr. Dobson will be listening.

Thank you




Friday, August 17, 2007

Sigh. Imprecatory prayer teaching rears its ugly head.

Calling down God's wrath or love. Which do you think is more powerful? Check it out.
Wiley S. Drake, a Buena Park pastor and a former national leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, called on his followers to pray for the deaths of two leaders of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The request was in response to the liberal group's urging the IRS on Tuesday to investigate Drake's church's nonprofit status because Drake endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for president on church letterhead and during a church-affiliated Internet radio show.

Drake said Wednesday he was "simply doing what God told me to do" by targeting Americans United officials Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, whom he calls the "enemies of God."

"God says to pray imprecatory prayer against people who attack God's church," he said. "The Bible says that if anybody attacks God's people, David said this is what will happen to them. . . . Children will become orphans and wives will become widows."

Imprecatory prayers are alternately defined as praying for someone's misfortune, or an appeal to God for justice.

"Let his days be few; and let another take his office," the prayer reads. "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."


Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's a thought

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The atheistic onslaught of late

Blasphemy is a tribute to God? Brilliant, in its own way. Check out this great article by Michael Gerson in the WashPost.

British author G.K. Chesterton argued that every act of blasphemy is a kind of tribute to God, because it is based on belief. "If anyone doubts this," he wrote, "let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor."

By the evidence of the New York Times bestseller list, God has recently been bathed in such tributes. An irreverent trinity -- Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins -- has sold a lot of books accusing theism of fostering hatred, repressing sexuality and mutilating children (Hitchens doesn't approve of male circumcision). Every miracle is a fraud. Every mystic is a madman. And this atheism is presented as a war of liberation against centuries of spiritual tyranny....

How do we choose between good and bad instincts? Theism, for several millennia, has given one answer: We should cultivate the better angels of our nature because the God we love and respect requires it. While many of us fall tragically short, the ideal remains.

Atheism provides no answer to this dilemma. It cannot reply: "Obey your evolutionary instincts" because those instincts are conflicted. "Respect your brain chemistry" or "follow your mental wiring" don't seem very compelling either. It would be perfectly rational for someone to respond: "To hell with my wiring and your socialization, I'm going to do whatever I please." C.S. Lewis put the argument this way: "When all that says 'it is good' has been debunked, what says 'I want' remains."


Friday, August 10, 2007

Difference between evangelicals and church-going evangelicals

Wish the pollsters would change their research methodologies. It would make a difference. Not all evangelicals attend church, for instance.

My recent research for the Russell Sage Foundation indicates that evangelicals who attend religious services weekly, when compared with average Americans, are less likely to cohabit as young adults (1% vs. 10% of other young adults), to bear a child outside of wedlock (12% vs. 33% of other moms) and to divorce (7% vs. 9% of other married adults divorced from 1988 to 1993). So churchgoing evangelicals, who are also the ones most likely to be involved in political and pastoral efforts to strengthen the family, are actually achieving some success in their efforts to focus on the family.

But their nominal brethren--that is, evangelicals who attend church rarely or never--are a different story. According to my research, nominal evangelicals have sex before other teens, cohabit and have children outside of wedlock at rates that are no different than the population at large, and are much more likely to divorce than average Americans. One reason that nominal evangelicals have been particularly vulnerable to the family revolution of the past 40 years is that they are much more likely to be poor and uneducated than other Americans.

But even after controlling for class, I find that nominal evangelicals do worse than other Americans. Why? I suspect that many nominal evangelicals are products of a Scotch-Irish "redneck" culture, still found in parts of Appalachia and the South, that Thomas Sowell and the late Southern historian Grady McWhiney argue has historically been marked by higher levels of promiscuity, violence and impulsive behavior. This cultural inheritance, and not their Protestantism, probably helps to account for the poor family performance of nominal evangelicals.

So the next time one hears about evangelicals trying to impose their family values on the rest of us, remember that they are probably more concerned about the families of their nominally Protestant brothers, cousins, neighbors and friends in the Bible Belt than they are about folks in Massachusetts.


Church and homosexual funerals

I can imagine this comes with issues that aren't as easy as covering the event with "Of course, we'll do the funeral for a gay guy!" What I do feel about it is this - if the people want to hold the funeral in the church then it is the pastor that is the decision maker as to how the funeral proceeds. Don't like his take? Have your ceremony at the funeral home, then.

An Arlington church volunteered to host a funeral Thursday, then reneged on the invitation when it became clear the dead man's homosexuality would be identified in the service.

The event placed High Point Church in the cross hairs of an issue many conservative Christian organizations are discussing: how to take a hard-line theological position on homosexuality while showing compassion toward gay people and their families.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

The unevangelist - "Jesus was a fag"

How are we to conduct ourselves in the face of such, uh, revelation?


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Finally, your dream pastor

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Don Lawrence preaches three times a week to an appreciative congregation at Life Baptist church. His sermon tapes often sell out, and this year he is leading the people through a study of Matthew’s gospel.
But Lawrence is not a real person. He is a virtual, on-screen pastor whose sermon topics, personality, even mannerisms are chosen collectively by his congregation.
"We’ve never been happier," says head elder Louie Francesca. "We finally got the pastor we all want."
Virtual Pastor, a UK company, began pioneering the "virtual pastor model" in 2005, and has created a dozen lifelike, on-screen avatars which preach, joke and give personal anecdotes as if they were real people. All their sermons and personal stories are scavenged from the Internet.
When a church subscribes to Virtual Pastor, each person in a congregation helps "shape" their pastor by entering likes and dislikes into a response box during services. This live feedback is fed into the company’s servers and helps to change the pastor’s sermon topics, hair style and more in following weeks. The result is a pastor perfectly tailored to the will of the congregation.
"We unify churches and remove any reason for quarreling," says co-creator Gavin McReady, standing next to the servers in Scotland where all the virtual pastors reside. "It’s a monumental achievement." More


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sex and the Evangelical Teen - good grief!

From Gene Edward Veith over at World. We are the world! We are the children!

Christian parents and churches need to face up to a problem long hidden in the dark: Evangelical teenagers are just as sexually active as their non-Christian friends.

In fact, there is evidence that evangelical teenagers on the whole may be more sexually immoral than non-Christians. Statistically, evangelical teens tend to have sex first at a younger age, 16.3, compared to liberal Protestants, who tend to lose their virginity at 16.7. And young evangelicals are far more likely to have had three or more sexual partners (13.7 percent) than non-evangelicals (8.9 percent).

What about abstinence pledges? Those work—for a while—delaying sex on an average of about 18 months, with 88 percent of pledgers eventually giving up their vow to remain virgins until marriage.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Proud atheists, unite!

Read Richard Dawkins' Introduction to The Out Campaign here

Atheists have always been at the forefront of rational thinking and beacons of enlightenment, and now you can share your idealism by being part of the OUT Campaign. Send us money and we'll send you a T-shirt with a great big "A" on it so you can show your pride in your atheism. Woo-hoo!


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Evangelistic smackdown quote of the day

"Every man needs reconversion at forty on general principles! Because at forty we settle down, begin to lose that sense of spiritual expectancy, begin to take on 'protective resemblance' to environment, and to play for safety.

I once heard an Anglican bishop say that the period of the great number of spiritual casualties is between forty and fifty and not between twenty and thirty, as one would expect. Why? Well, if 'heaven lies about us in our infancy,' the world lies about us in our middle age. We come under its standards, fit into its facts, and are slowly de-Christianized." (E. Stanley Jones, Christ and Human Suffering)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My kind of atheism


Low Bible, low church

Insight from one of my online students this summer:

I was in a church of a main line denomination last February in East Dayton, OH. The congregation had shrunk from over 1,000 in the 90's to 14 in 2007. The main sanctuary was locked up because they could not light it or heat it for the lack of funds. While I was waiting in the church library I found hundreds of monogrammed and embossed Bibles that were left in the church. I initially thought that they were of old saints that had passed on. I was wrong. These were Bibles that living people had just abandoned as they left the church. It was like an Army, whipped in the field, throwing away their personal equipment to run faster. These people had thrown away their Bibles and left faith period. It is a sad commentary as to the general state of faith outside of evangelical oriented churches. (SG)

Discount the Bible, discount people, discount evangelism. But where there is a high view of scriptural authority (otherwise known as biblical inerrancy) you see spiritual vitality spreading around the world.

So, why do so many want to fight for biblical errancy?